John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Go figure: Road to Greenwood via Teoc both shortcut, scenic route

Rode to Greenwood Saturday, this time to meet a train rather than board one.

My nephew came up from New Orleans to visit his mother and grandmother. I used his arrival on the northbound Amtrak as a reason to visit along the way.

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First David, our son who lives with his family near Holcomb. There his father-in-law, Charles Martin, raises vegetables and melons on a scale that reminds us of his grandad, the late John Nelson of Chapeltown, whose namesake was coming on the train.

Because of his proximity to Greenwood, David has often met me there when I have been the Amtrak passenger. Instead of returning to Holcomb via Highway 7, he always turns off at a road sign that points to “Teoc.”

That road winds through eastern LeFlore County and then into the hills of Carroll County. I have never been sure just exactly where Teoc is, never tried real hard to find out, but Teoc is the ancestral home of Senator John McCain. His grandfather grew up on a plantation there before he went to Ole Miss, then on the the Naval Academy and ultimately to command U. S. air forces in the pacific in World War II. There oughta be a marker.

David has always maintained the route through Teoc is a shortcut. I never believed it but tried to put it to test as I left his house for Greenwood and my rendezvous with the train. About the same time — something after 5 p.m. — I decided to phone Turnrow Books in Greenwood.

“How late are y’all open?” I asked.

“For John Howell, we’ll wait,” came the reply.

It was bookstore owner Jamie Kornegay, and even through the novelty of caller I.D. clairvoyance has worn down over the years, it’s still a little surprising. His response was so flattering that I punched the old van at more-than-scenic-route speed to keep them from waiting too long.

After twisting and turning up hills and down, I soon came to flat land and an intersection with Highway 7 that was very near Greenwood. I still can’t understand how that route can be a shortcut, but it is.

We like to claim that we gave Jamie his start at this newspaper, but his parents, Gary and Andrea Kornegay, had well-started him before we got him.

Jamie and his wife, Kelli, opened Turnrow Books a little less than a year ago and have been running non-stop since. Drawing from his years of experience with Square Books in Oxford, they have created at Turnrow a landmark venue in Greenwood’s historic downtown. The photos that I had seen, impressive as they were, fell short of conveying the sense of space and open lighting their two-story floor plan affords.

So favorably has their venture been received, Jamie and Kelli have attracted a steady stream of authors for Turnrow signings. My purchase that day was James Lee Burkes’ first post-Katrina Dave Rubicheaux novel, Tin Roof Blowdown. Also, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (I can’t pronounce it either).

With Jamie and Kelli was tiny Bayard, three weeks old. He joins his sister, Sophie, age three.

The train rolled in minutes ahead of schedule bringing our nephew and opportunity to visit as we rode back to Batesville under the spectacular light of a Delta sunset and the musky smell of cantaloupes fresh from a Holcomb hillside.